Chapter 294 Powerlevel
When she had again reached the maximum buff from her Form of Ash and Ember, Ilea blinked in, focusing on her target alone while she ignored the blades rushing at her. The machine was damaged already, its core not glowing but two of its legs were merely dragged along. Her mana was slowly dwindling but with it being so defensive, she was still at two thirds.
Screaming, Ilea focused on the previously dented part and delivered a fully powered punch, her arm clad in fire and ash as the machine was sent skidding back, falling down even. She only noticed a moment later that a blade was stuck in her skull and a second one had embedded itself into her neck. She stumbled back, using her arms to rip out the blades, blood quickly seeping out as her vision blurred. Ilea heard the steel hitting the floor when she sacrificed a thousand points of mana to boost her healing. Her mind barely understood just how damaged she was but a thousand felt like a good amount.
Immediately her vision sharpened again, her body moving to dodge the attacks from the damaged Centurion Ripper. One of its blades grazed her but she moved in and delivered yet another punch. This time she heard the cracking and saw the small tears forming near its core. She smiled and waited for it to progress. “Come on lad… time to dive.” She commented, waiting from an appropriate distance as the machine turned more and more aggressive, Ilea simply blinking and moving away before finally, the Centurion turned tail and rushed towards the abyss. Ilea heard the dull explosion in the distance.
Sighing, she sat down on some machine before her hand reached up to her head, feeling the hair and bone below. It was dented in… my brain was mush… She couldn’t really grasp it. Ilea tried to remember how it had felt but just shuddered at the thought. While pain wasn’t an issue, having ones very skull and brain smashed in wasn’t pleasant. At all. Would have ended me without my third tier healing. It was a wonder her senses hadn’t shut down immediately but she assumed it had to do with her Vitality somehow. She didn’t know how low her Health had dipped but it was nowhere near fatal, at least if one focused on the points only. Perhaps that kept her alive. What would happen if I lost my head? Would I somehow still perceive the world through my eyes if I still had health? Or would I be a beheaded body stumbling around with instincts only. Doesn’t make sense without a head, does it?
Ilea decided to wait with testing until an appropriate moment presented itself. For now the Centurion Ripper had proven to be dangerous, dangerous enough to kill her if she wasn’t careful. Still, she knew getting rid of the armor was the right decision. Getting stuck on its blades and having her head ripped off would have been a less preferable scenario than how it turned out. Been a while since my last near death experience. She smiled at the thought. For the first time in weeks she felt truly alive. A scary thought she found, one that would lead her to death one way or the other. Then again, without a ridiculous challenge, how was she expected to grow? The only thing she could do was prepare and train as well as she could. She couldn’t help that she liked it, even if her challenges would grow more and more dangerous the higher their levels grew.
Already the Centurions had few weaknesses, the Ripper immune to her ashen limbs. Yet Ilea had scores to settle with Praetorians, a ridiculously powerful demon, an ex elder of the Shadow’s Hand as well as a mysterious order she knew next to nothing about. Let alone the Basilisk hiding somewhere in Karth. If she ever hoped to even challenge one of them, she had to be able to take this kind of abuse and more. I can already see the headless training coming. She sighed and smiled, the messages in her mind confirming her thoughts.
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Centurion Ripper – lvl 381] – For defeating an enemy one hundred or more levels above your own, bonus experience is granted’
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth First Hunter has reached lvl 280 – Five stat points awarded. One third tier skill point awarded’
‘ding’ ‘Inheritor of Eternal Ash has reached lvl 276 – Five stat points awarded’
There you go. Both classes leveled as well as the two skills that provided the highest boon in her battle.
‘ding’ ‘Hunter Recovery reaches 3rd lvl 9’
‘ding’ ‘Form of Ash and Ember reaches 3rd lvl 3’
Ilea checked out the possible third tier advancements immediately.
‘3rd tier skill points available [Azarinth First Hunter]: 1’
‘Skills available for third tier advancement in [Azarinth First Hunter]:’
- Azarinth Hunter Sphere
- Azarinth Fighting
- Azarinth Perception
- Azarinth Reversal
Hunter sphere was out immediately. While it could certainly provide an interesting third tier, the skill was listed as an Aura as well as a Perception Aura. Not what Ilea was going for with her skill advancements. Azarinth Fighting was purely Body Enhancement and provided her with one of the highest buffs she currently had. She couldn’t really think of a reasonable third tier but the simple fact that it was such a good skill to begin with made her prefer this one immediately.
Azarinth Perception enhanced, well her perception. It was purely a Body Enhancement skill too but didn’t provide an immediate damage bonus. Azarinth Reversal again was interesting but for now she decided on Azarinth Fighting.
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth Fighting reaches 3rd lvl 1’
Passive: Azarinth Fighting – 3rd lvl 1:
You are familiar with the fighting style of Azarinth. Damage inflicted with your own body and related skills is 95.5% [477.5%] higher.
2nd stage: Getting used to fighting in close quarters, your reaction time is increased to accommodate your increasing speed and control.
3rd stage: Azarinth Fighting consists of more than offense alone. A true Azarinth Healer knows when to stand and let an enemy strike. You gain knowledge about sustained injuries and damage from incoming attacks as they happen.
Category: Body Enhancement
Ilea read through it twice before she nodded. So basically what I’ve been doing anyway… now I just get confirmation somehow. And I guess I know which hits to avoid and which I can take. Well, let’s see how it works in practice.
Against the normal Centurions it wasn’t a huge difference, Ilea easily able to avoid their attacks anyway. She did gain a pretty concise idea of how much or how little damage would come in should she choose to take the hit, not that it was ever worth it against normal Centurions. Further interesting was the fact that the closer the weapons or arms came to hit, the clearer her picture got. As if an additional sense in the back of her mind, telling her just how exactly her nose would be fractured, how her denting armor would cut into her flesh.
When she found the next Centurion Ripper two days later, she again ditched her armor and led the thing to the first floor. Again, it was rather defensive, again Ilea had to attack to force it into a fight. This time however, everything was different.
Its swords moved in fluid motions, Ilea dodging two of them while completely ignoring the third and fourth blade, one passing by her as she stepped to the side and one cutting into her arm. She knew the blade wouldn’t get stuck, knew the injury would be minor at best while the first two blades could have ripped off her other arm by the shoulder. Her fists hit true, Destruction and Wave of Ember smashing into the creature as her ashen limbs tried to get past its wild swings.
A smirk was on her face as it targeted her directly again, Ilea neither blinking nor dodging widely, simply turning sideways and adjusting little by little as the swords cut through her clothing and into her flesh, blood drawn as they moved past. Another hit before she was forced to blink away, the blades hard to dodge and each likely resulting in a dangerous situation. She wasn’t quite sure how she processed all the information, especially as quickly as the enemy attacked. Too fast to dodge when the swings were good but still she knew, simply knew to let them through or not.
Perhaps the skill worked in tandem with her second tier Body of Ash, the latter sharpening her instincts to avoid damage to her vitals when she dodged. There were likely more of her abilities involved, everything leading to the previously dangerous and chaotic fight turning into a calculated endeavor. While she couldn’t match the creature’s speed and the patterns of all its blades, neither her body nor equipment able to deflect or take direct hits with ease, she now had a way to let it strike safely.
Of course she was still taking damage, cuts that made her bleed onto the floor, ripped and destroyed muscles and skin but with her healing she could quickly recover what she really needed, with her absent sense of pain she could ignore it entirely. Marvelous. She thought, delivering another blow before the blades cut into her legs, Ilea hitting the machine again before she moved her legs inwards, the serrated edges of the blades smoothly exiting the wounds before she blinked away, ready to heal the damage as she meditated. The creature was destroyed without further incident.
In the coming days, Ilea started to actually scout the second floor, going as far as exploring parts of the third. As long as the stairwells were close together, she thought it a manageable risk. Too many of either Centurions or special variants would become a problem quickly but it was worth the additional time. Ilea was on the hunt for Juggernauts and Rippers as well as any other specialists she could find.
When a week had passed, Ilea lazily looked over to the gathering energy near the black obelisk, dark smoke rising as she enjoyed a warm lava bath. One moment later, Goliath appeared next to the steel structure. He opened his eyes and looked around, the two golden things dancing with joy. “Human of ash… you did not lie. A marvelous place, an outstanding smell… the mana too is beautiful, deep and resonating.”
She looked at him and smiled, “Well knock yourself out. There are Centurions and worse below so make sure to stay on this layer. Stray at your own risk, I’ll try to have my fights reasonably far away from here.”
“A generous gesture.” He said and bowed, going on to touch one of the forges, “I will need time to study this… an incredible facility… truly, a wonder.” The smith completely ignored her afterwards, floating to one machine or the other, dipping his hands into molten steel as well as adding mana to random enchantments.
Ilea remembered she hadn’t tried out his armor yet, summoning the humongous thing promptly. Around her. The first thing she noticed was that she couldn’t exactly move. Not the arms of the armor but her own arms and legs. The whole thing was a tight fit. She was impressed the smith knew her proportions so well after simply using a mold to create her armors. The next thing she noticed was her lack of sight. Her eyes were obviously unable to penetrate the thick steel but her Sphere as well seemed to have difficulties getting through.
She did have a vague idea about her surroundings but it definitely felt muffled, subdued. Her auras didn’t help her in the slightest, even with her enhanced strength, she was unable to move any part of the thing even an inch. Sacrificing five hundred health, she tried again but found it still impossible. There was no space to create any ash. Blinking, she found herself outside the thing, not moving with it on her. As if the skill knows I can’t use it… or the fact that it’s just a massive piece of steel.
Giving up on it for now, she put the armor back into her necklace and decided to try again once she had gotten stronger, or anything else to try. Wait there is something…, Summoning the armor, she used her Embered Body Heat to make herself as hot as possible. This time something did happen. Tiny runes lit up within the armor, adding to the light coming from her Form of Ash and Ember. So heat can do something at least. Trying to add mana didn’t do anything, the enchantments either rejecting it or simply ignoring her intention. Sighting, she gave up again, still unable to move the thing or find out anything about the runes.
A little annoyed about the immovable chunk of steel, she continued with her daily business of destroying killer machines.
With Goliath around and her new ability to fight the Rippers, her time down in the Taleen dungeon flew by. The week turned into two, then four until finally two months had passed of Ilea following her routine. It was getting more and more difficult to find special variants in the second and third floor, to the point where she questioned if any of them still remained. While she could absolutely wreck normal Centurions now, a couple minutes of fighting at most, the experience they provided was minimal at best.
At this point they were only ten to twenty levels higher than her and apparently the system expected bigger leaps from her. Not that it wasn’t possible. In the last two weeks, Ilea felt like most of her leveling came from the Rippers she destroyed. The Miststalkers were still too dangerous but she was starting to think about an alternative.
Three weeks into the training, she had reached level two eighty in her ashen class, giving her another third tier point to spend. The options and final decision were similar to her last Azarinth third tier skill.
3rd tier skill points available [Inheritor of Eternal Ash]: 1
Skills available for third tier advancement in [Inheritor of Eternal Ash]:
- Wave of Ember
- Body of Ash
- Ashen Warrior
- Embered Body Heat
The likely good perk for Wave of Ember was desirable but it was after all an ashen magic skill, making her focus on other avenues. Ashen Warrior was the equivalent of her Azarinth Fighting which made her ultimately decide to get it to the third tier.
‘ding’ ‘Ashen Warrior reaches 3rd lvl 1’
Passive: Ashen Warrior – 3rd lvl 1:
You are familiar with the fighting style of Ash. Damage inflicted with your own body and while shrouded in Ash is 70.5% [352.5%] higher.
2nd stage: Shroud your weapons in ash to produce various effects. Shrouded weapons deal additional damage. Affected by Ash and Ember Manipulation.
3rd stage: Your mastery of Ashen Warrior allows for more efficient movement. Reduces stamina consumption by a static 25%.
Category: Body Enhancement
The difference was noticeable but Ilea’s mana had always been the more important factor when it came to sustainability during battles. Neither did the perk provide for an actual change against any of the machines she was facing like Azarinth Fighting did. If only I could have gotten reduced mana consumption somewhere along the way.
Checking the messages again, Ilea thought about how to breach the last ten levels.
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth First Hunter has reached lvl 281 – Five Stat Points awarded’
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth First Hunter has reached lvl 290 – Five Stat Points awarded’
‘ding’ ‘Inheritor of Eternal Ash has reached lvl 277 – Five Stat Points awarded’
‘ding’ ‘Inheritor of Eternal Ash has reached lvl 288 – Five Stat Points awarded’
‘ding’ ‘Destruction reaches 3rd lvl 7’
‘ding’ ‘Destruction reaches 3rd lvl 8’
‘ding’ ‘Hunter Recovery reaches 3rd lvl 10’
‘ding’ ‘Hunter Recovery reaches 3rd lvl 11’
‘ding’ ‘Hunter Recovery reaches 3rd lvl 12’
‘ding’ ‘State of Azarinth reaches 3rd lvl 10’
‘ding’ ‘Blink reaches 3rd lvl 9’
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth Fighting reaches 3rd lvl 2’
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth Fighting reaches 3rd lvl 3’
‘ding’ ‘Veil of Ash reaches 3rd lvl 9’
‘ding’ ‘Form of Ash and Ember reaches 3rd lvl 4’
‘ding’ ‘Ash Creation reaches 3rd lvl 5’
‘ding’ ‘Ash and Ember Manipulation reaches 3rd lvl 4’
‘ding’ ‘Identify reaches lvl 8’
‘ding’ ‘Meditation reaches 2nd lvl 20’
‘ding’ ‘Heat Resistance reaches 2nd lvl 7’
‘ding’ ‘Heat Resistance reaches 2nd lvl 12’
‘ding’ ‘Health Drain Resistance reaches 2nd lvl 19’
‘ding’ ‘Health Drain Resistance reaches 2nd lvl 20’
‘ding’ ‘Mana Drain Resistance reaches 2nd lvl 18’
‘ding’ ‘Mana Drain Resistance reaches 2nd lvl 19’
‘ding’ ‘Mana Drain Resistance reaches 2nd lvl 20’
‘ding’ ‘Mist Magic Resistance reaches 2nd lvl 2’
‘ding’ ‘Mist Magic Resistance reaches 2nd lvl 5’
Nothing had revealed itself upon reaching the current highest point in some of her General skills. Neither for Meditation nor for her Mana and Health drain resistances. The Miststalkers were out as potential enemies to bridge the remaining gap to three hundred, their numbers simply too high. Centurion variants would be enough with time but Ilea was aching for something else, especially because for each special Centurion, she had to wade through dozens if not hundreds of normal ones.
The Blue Reapers were an option, her newfound third tier abilities would help her survive and deal the necessary damage but she still considered it dangerous, her mind likely not able to tank the collective magic coming from five or ten of them. That left plenty of other options but Terok showing up in the facility looking for her brought an end to her pondering. They decided to move the group to Tremor to train with the knights instead, the low numbers would allow them to work together. Ilea didn’t mention that she could pull single Centurions from the lower layers and said she would come with them. Kingsguard, Undead Knights, Soul Ripper… well we will see what it will be. She smiled at the thought of facing any of them with her newfound power. Except for the Soul Ripper, that thing still haunted her dreams.